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October 28, 2010

Future of 10,000 Afghan students at stake in Peshawar


October 28, 2010

PESHAWAR: Future of 10,000 Afghan students is at stake after the International Rescue Committee (IRC) stopped funding the Refugees Education Programme (REP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Talking to The News on Tuesday, Director Programmes of the Participatory Rural Development Society (PRDS) Farzana Nazli said the REP was established and managed by the IRC since 1992. She said her organisation recently undertook the project of running 15 schools under REP in various areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. She said 10,000 students from Grade 1 to 12 were enrolled in these schools.
Farzana Nazli said the camp-based schools were located in Shamshatoo, Munda (Shabqadar), Badaber, at some places in Swabi and Mardan districts and at Azakhel in Nowshera. She said there were urban-based schools at Dilazak Road, Yousafabad, Kababyan, Tehkal, Arbab Road, Gulabad, Tajabad and Nauthia. She said according to the exit strategy, the IRC phased out on September 30, 2010 and the whole programme along with the REP staff was handed over to a local organisation, Participatory Rural Development Society (PRDS).
Farzana Nazli said that legally the Afghan refugees could stay in Pakistan till December 2012 and the humanitarian organisations were supposed to come forward and work for the education and health facilities for these students. She said as Pakistan was already facing many crises, the international community should not ignore the Afghan refugees in the country.
She said the future of the 10,000 Afghan students was at risk and some could become involved in crime, smuggling, drug addiction, child labour and terrorism. “At the moment the programme is not funded by any donor agency and the PRDS is looking for potential donors to support it,” she said.
Meanwhile, Principal of Maryam School Amanullah Nasrati said that besides 10,000 students, about 500 supporting staff including teachers, clerks, watchmen, etc, would also be rendered jobless. He said about 3,000 girls students from

Grade 1 to 12 were getting education in the Shamshatoo school alone.
The principal said the students who got education from these schools found better jobs in Afghanistan to serve their people. He said the principals and senior teachers of the schools had constituted a committee to review the management, supervision, performance and problems of the schools.
“We realise that the students belonging to the poor families are unable to pay the monthly fee of Rs100-200 but what else can we do if there is no funding by the donors,” he argued. Amanullah Nasrati said in the beginning 3,500 students were enrolled in the Maryam Higher Secondary School but now the strength had dropped to 850 students He said that former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright accompanied by the-then US Ambassador to Pakistan Thomas Simons Jr had visited the school in 1996.
The principal said she had sent him a letter that stated: “For me the entire visit was a moving and informative experience which I shall never forget. Your hard work and dedicated efforts of Maryam School teaching staff are making a significant and positive contribution to the future of Afghanistan. I specially applaud your mission to promote female literacy among the Afghan refugees.”
PRDS Programme Manager Fareed Khan said: “We have taken the REP project on humanitarian basis though we have no fund for it. As you know it was being funded by IRC since 1992.”
When contacted, IRC Coordination Officer Jamaluddin said to encourage the Afghan refugees’ repatriation it was decided to hand over the project to the community-based organisation, PRDS. “The destruction caused by the floods in Punjab and Sindh is the main focus of attention for our organisation now,” he said.
Jamaluddin said two conferences of the donors had so far been held in Peshawar to look for a potential donor to help the PRDS in running the Refugees Education Programme until their repatriation in 2012.

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